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Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

If a close relative died because of someone else’s carelessness, mistake, or intentional act, you might wonder who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. California statutes create a cause of action for the decedent’s personal representative or specific individuals to pursue the responsible party for their losses. 

These lawsuits are sophisticated litigation, but California wrongful death attorneys can advocate on your behalf and hold the guilty person or company accountable for the untimely death of your loved one. We can go after compensation for the legal beneficiaries.

California’s Wrongful Death statute says that these parties or the personal representative of the deceased person can take legal action for their losses:

  • The decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and issue of deceased children.
  • If there are no living children, grandchildren, or other issue of the deceased person at the time of the decedent’s death, then the surviving spouse or domestic partner and others who would inherit from the decedent under the rules of intestate succession.
  • If the parents of the deceased person would qualify through intestate succession, but they are already dead when the decedent dies, then anyone who was serving as the legal guardian of the decedent when he died can step into the shoes of the parents and bring a wrongful death action. 
  • The putative spouse, children of the putative spouse, stepchildren, parents, or the decedent’s legal guardian can bring a wrongful death action if they were financially dependent on the deceased person.

The concept of a putative spouse often causes confusion. You might think that you have a valid marriage, only to find out that, due to some legal defect or mistake, you actually have a void or voidable marriage. If the court finds that you believed, in good faith, that your marriage was valid, the law will consider you a putative spouse.

Sometimes, a minor who was not a child, grandchild, or stepchild of the decedent can bring a wrongful death action, even if the minor does not fit into any of the groups above. The minor must have lived with the decedent for at least 180 days immediately prior to the decedent’s death and have been dependent on the deceased person for at least half of his financial support.

A domestic partner must have been in a domestic partnership at the time of the decedent’s death. The domestic partnership must have been registered and met the qualifications of California law for registered domestic partnerships.

What Makes a Death Wrongful in California

Under California law, a wrongful death is “the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another.” A wrongful act could be negligence or an intentional act. For example, when someone dies in a car accident, the person whose carelessness caused that accident could get sued for wrongful death. 

If someone kills a person because of an intentional act, like an assault, the legal beneficiaries of the deceased person could file a wrongful death lawsuit. If a resident in a nursing home died because the staff neglected to dispense his heart medication, the nursing home could find itself the subject of a wrongful death case.

California personal injury attorneys could help you go after compensation for the legal beneficiaries if your loved one died because of the wrongful act or neglect of another. Contact us today.

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To learn more, contact our law office today and schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.

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